The move, first announced on Wednesday in a tweet by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser's chief of staff, John Falcicchio, aligns with the end of an "Inauguration Pause" on city's Phase 2 reopening activities.
The "Inauguration Pause" was an extension of a Dec. 23 order implemented to flatten the curve amid a surge in coronavirus cases, which was set to expire on Jan. 15. Bowser cited ongoing "public health and safety" concerns as the reason for the extension, following a riot at the Capitol by pro-Trump protesters on Jan. 6 that left five people dead.
In addition to shutting down indoor dining, the order closed museums and the D.C. Circular Route along the National Mall. It also limited libraries to pick-up and drop-off services only for three weeks, ordered the Department of Parks and Recreation to offer reservations for individual swim and fitness room sessions only and required that all non-essential business employees telework, with the exception of in-person staff needed to support minimum operations.
Bowser confirmed the move during a news conference on Thursday. She also noted that the pause will remain on libraries, the DC Circular Route and the Department of Parks and Recreation while additional guidance on museums is expected to be forthcoming.
The move will allow residents to take advantage of sit-down and takeout offerings during the city's Restaurant Week promotion, beginning Jan. 25.
The move is the latest pivot by a government official on COVID-19 restrictions after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot urged during a press conference last week that restaurants and bars be allowed to open "as quickly as possible," citing concerns over private gatherings where COVID-19 protocols were not being followed.
The comment was a pivot from Lightfoot's stance last year, when she called on people not to go out and get their hair done in one of her "Stay Home, Save Lives" public service announcements. She later came under fire when a photo surfaced showing Lightfoot getting a hair cut during the state's stay-at-home order.
“I'm the public face of this city and you know, I’m a person who [takes] personal hygiene very seriously and I felt like I needed to have a haircut,” Lightfoot said in defense of the move at the time. “So I got a haircut.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also appeared to take heat for similar comments he made on Twitter on Jan. 11 related to reopening of the economy.
"We simply cannot stay closed until the vaccine hits critical mass," Cuomo wrote. "The cost is too high. We will have nothing left to open. We must reopen the economy, but we must do it smartly and safely."
Critics accused Cuomo of delaying a push to reopen New York until after the results of the November presidential election.
Despite the rollback of indoor dining restrictions, COVID-19 cases in D.C. have continued on an upward trend since the Dec. 23 order. On Thursday, Washington, D.C., recorded 209 new coronavirus cases and one related-death, bringing the citywide totals since the pandemic began to more than 34,600 cases and 864 deaths.
Washington, D.C. first entered Phase 2 of its COVID-19 reopening plan on June 22. The city's reopening plan is based on a series of metrics related to four areas, including level of community spread, health system, capacity, public health system capacity, and community engagement. Each metric has a red, yellow, and green level, signifying each respective phase.
As of Tuesday, Washington, D.C.'s daily case rate is in the red zone with a seven-day average of 36.7 cases per 100,000 people.
"We remain squarely in Phase 2,” Bowser said. “We were taking advantage over the holiday, where we know that there could be more travel and gathering, to recommend less of that with this pause. And we extended that through the inauguration. And those things are over.”
Maryland reported 2,166 new cases of the coronavirus and 46 more deaths on Thursday, bringing the statewide totals to 334,519 cases and 6,560 related deaths since the pandemic began.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday, more than 37.9 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been distributed and 17.5 million doses have been administered. In Maryland, 685,325 doses have been distributed, or 11,336 per 100,000 people, and 271,905 have been administered, or 4,498 per 100,000 people.
Washington, D.C., will receive 8,775 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 5,600 next week. As of Jan. 16, more than 62,000 doses have been delivered to the city and over 41,000 have been administered.